The Corona del Mar High School girls' volleyball team won the Orange County Championships Saturday at Westminster High. This was no small feat, considering the Sea Kings are smaller than most of the top teams in the county.
They defeated Irvine in the final, 15-13, 2-15, 15-12. The Vaqueros have the sizable combination of Bev Oden and Cari Delson, who had 30 kills between them in the final.
In Irvine's victory, Oden and Delson dominated at the net. Oden's kills became so vicious that Charlie Brande, Corona del Mar coach, said, "Not even King Kong could have blocked her at that point."
Two kills by Oden, who is 6-feet 1 1/2-inches, gave Irvine a 2-0 lead in the third game, but Corona del Mar scored eight straight points, in no small part because they kept the ball away from Oden.
"When she gets it going like she did today, you've got to try and keep the action away from her," Brande said. "We tried to serve to different sides of her, mix things up."
Oden had only two more kills, but one of those completed an Irvine rally and tied the score at 8-8.
Corona del Mar, a team without the size to dominate at the net, depended on control of the ball and nearly errorless play down the stretch.
"When you come down to it, so much of high school volleyball depends on who makes the most errors," said Mark McKenzie, Irvine coach. "They did an excellent job of controlling the ball. They had to, to counter our superior size."
Corona del Mar didn't have a lot of kills in the match--only four in the third game--but it did force a number of errors by keeping the ball alive for long rallies. The Sea Kings also had four service winners in the last game, including Karen Smith's winner at match point.
"We have to do those type of things to win," Brande said. "We don't have a lot of size, so if we don't play aggressive we get blown right out of a game."
Hence the 15-2 loss to Irvine, and the 11-2 loss to Marina in the first game of the Sea Kings' semifinal match. They won the next two games, 11-5 and 11-9.
"We have to play with our hearts and our minds," Brande said. "It's a matter of survival."
The heart and mind of the Sea Kings is setter Rhonda Schnitger, who played with a black eye, and managed to move the ball around enough to keep Irvine's blockers off balance.
"She's tough," Brande said. "She ran into Karen Smith in practice and hurt her eye. She didn't miss a second of practice. She wouldn't hear of it."
Schnitger was named the tournament's most valuable player.
Marina defeated El Toro in the third-place game, 15-8.
El Toro lost to Irvine in the semifinals, 11-4, 11-5. But the Chargers did knock off the tournament's No. 1-seeded team, Huntington Beach, in the second round, 5-11, 11-9, 11-6.
Laguna Beach rallied to defeat Laguna Hills in the consolation championship, 8-11, 11-7, 11-1.
Cari Delson (Irvine), Bev Oden (Irvine), Elaine Youngs (El Toro), Sharon Kasser (Huntington Beach), Dawn Charrion (Marina), Karen Smith (Corona del Mar) and Rhonda Schnitger (Corona del Mar).